Language of Living - North Island tour

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

25/05/2013 - 25/05/2013

Opera House, Wellington

12/06/2013 - 12/05/2013

Production Details

Join The New Zealand Dance Company as it embarks on its first North Island tour with its acclaimed inaugural production Language of Living.  The brave and beautiful works on the programme showcase some of New Zealand’s finest artistic athletes in innovative and relevant choreography.

Michael Parmenter: Tenerezza (from time to time…)

Choreographer: Michael Parmenter with Craig Bary and Justin Haiu
Cast: Craig Bary, Justin Haiu
Music: C.P.E. Bach Sonata in A Major, Wq. 65/32. 2nd Movement: Andante Con Tenerezza
Pianist: David Guerin in Auckland Sarah Watkins in Wellington

Respected dance authority Michael Parmenter’s duet Tenerezza works on the premise that no movement occurs without initiation by the other. Beautifully danced by Craig Bary and Justin Haiu, music by CPE Bach is played live on piano. 

Justin Haiu: Release your Robot

Choreographer : Justin Haiu
Cast: Justin Haiu
Music: The Electric Boutique (playing live in Auckland).

Release Your Robot is inspired by street dance movement known as Robot and Liquiding/Waving.
Trapped by the mundane, a character is awakened to the possibility of change. As he pursues a vision of hope he experiences the challenge to conform or be transformed. Release Your Robot features an original score by South Auckland trio The Electric Boutique, who perform live during the piece in Auckland.

Shona McCullagh: Trees, Birds then People

A curiosity of this land is the absence of land mammals here until the arrival of man. The cacophony of our native birds bears resemblance to the confusion of communication in relationships. Birds, like humans,
can be accusatory, territorial and astonishing in their primal life force. 

Choreographer: Shona McCullagh
Cast: Gareth Okan, Pamela Sidhu or Lucy Lynch, Hannah Tasker-Poland, Tupua Tigafua
Music: Mondo Rondo by Gareth Farr, performed live by NZTrio 

With thanks to the Tuis in my garden, the dancers past and present for their wonderful contributions to the choreography, and to Gareth’s wild music.

Sarah Foster-Sproull: Human Human God

Human Human God is a physical exploration of how we often perceive Generation Y to place notions of God or spirituality within themselves. We question whether their worlds perhaps become insular and self-focussed.
‘People are mean and nice, and they’re all around us being mean and nice all the time…’

Choreographer: Sarah Foster-Sproull and dancers of NZDC
Rehearsal Director: Charene Griggs
Cast: Craig Bary, Justin Haiu, Hannah Tasker-Poland, Tupua Tigafua, Lucy Lynch, Gareth Okan, Pamela Sidhu
Music: Eden Mulholland
Recorded Dialogue: Sarah Foster-Sproull and Andrew Foster, read by Jo Smith
Sarah would like to acknowledge the contributions to the creative process of the dancers, past and present

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Mark Lorimer: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faune)  – Auckland and Wellington performances only

This solo derives from the first of six choreographic episodes to form the full-length company work, D’un soir un jour, by Rosas (2006). This version of Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune was created by Anne Teresa
De Keersmaeker and Mark Lorimer (performed by Lorimer) and has been taught to Ursula Robb, with subtle
adjustments made to accommodate the female body in this male role. In the initial full-length work, this solo
was preceded by a silent prelude in tribute to Nijinsky, who in 1912 performed his now famous solo to this same Claude Debussy score.
World première: Rosas, at La Monnaie/De Munt, Brussels, 17th May 2006
Choreographer: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Mark Lorimer
Rehearsal Director: Victoria Columbus
Cast: Ursula Robb
Music: Claude Debussy, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune 
The original Rosas design team included:
Set and Lighting: Jan Joris Lamers
Costumes: Tim Van Steenbergen
Assistant to Costumes Designer: Anne-Cathérine Kunz
Musical Assistant: Alain Franco
Musical Analysis: Alain Franco, Bojana Cvejic
Collaboration on dance historical research: Simon Hecquet
The New Zealand Dance Company would like to acknowledge the generosity of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Rosas in gifting this first international work and solo to us, for Ursula to perform as a premiere in New Zealand

Ashleigh Coward – Without Eve – Warkworth, Whangarei and Orewa only
A fast paced dialect dance of grunts and gestures, probably stemmed from the Stone Age, is emerging choreographer Ashleigh Coward’s hilarious view of male conversation created on four guest dancers from
UNITEC. Laughter guaranteed. 

Choreographer: Ashleigh Coward
Cast: Te Arahi Easton, Eddie Elliott, Jared Hemopo and Ben Temoku
The New Zealand Dance Company would like to thank UNITEC’s Bachelor of Performing and Screen
Arts and Kimbrian Bergh for joining with us, to share this work with audiences in northern end of our tour.

– Hawke’s Bay Youth Company: 
Annabel Thomas, Caroline Jones, Claudia Sando, Emily Barber, Estelle Taylor, Gabrielle Barham, Grace Gibson, Lily Dodgshun, Lizzie Astwood, Maddison Airey , Madison Jones, Olivia Broadhurst, Tamzyn Bremer, Strickland Young
– Warkworth Youth Company: Amy Maddren, Annie McKenzie, Cade Hansen, Elspeth Free, Jasmine Donaldson

Interludes Designer: Gerbrand van Melle
Interludes Composer: John Gibson

AUCKLAND – ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge – Saturday 25 May at 7.30pm

WARKWORTH – Mahurangi College Hall – Tuesday 28 May at 7.30pm

WHANGAREI – Capitaine Bougainville Theatre, Forum North – Saturday 1 June at 7.30pm
OREWA – Orewa Arts & Events Centre – Tuesday 4 June at 7.30pm

HAWKE’S BAY – Hawke’s Bay Opera House, Hastings – Friday 7 June at 7.30pm

WELLINGTON – The Opera House– Wednesday 12 June at 7.30pm



Craig Bary
Gareth Okan
Hannah Tasker-Poland
Justin Haiu
Lucy Lynch
Pamela Sidhu
Tupua Tigafua
Ursula Robb

Rehearsal Directors - Charene Griggs, Michael Parmenter, Victoria Columbus
TOUR Rehearsal ASSISTANT: Craig Bary

Composers and Live Musicians
C.P.E Bach
Claude Debussy
David Guerin
Eden Mulholland
Gareth Farr
John Gibson
The Electric Boutique

Set Design - Sue Gallagher
Costume Design - Andreas Mikellis with assistance from Glenn Yungnickel
Lighting Designer - Matthew Marshall
AV Design - Designworks, Gerbrand Van Melle

Production AND STAGE Manager - Jo Kilgour
Lighting TECHNICIAN & Operator - Abby Clearwater
Sound and Audio Visual Operator - Rory Maguire

2 hours

Combined talents produce magic

Review by Ann Hunt 18th Jun 2013

The New Zealand Dance Company’s inaugural national tour is a triumph for all concerned. It is stylish, sophisticated and of a high calibre.

The opening work, Michael Parmenter’s intriguing and innovative Tenerezza, was danced to music by CPE Bach. It explores similar territory to that of an earlier Parmenter work, Absence, performed in 2012 by Footnote Dance. The duet begins slowly with sculptural poses and strongly supported sudden, arcing lifts and builds in intensity. Dancers Craig Bary and Justin Haiu are vigorous and beautiful. Pianist Sarah Watkins accompanied with care and sensitivity.

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Strong, fierce, competent dancing

Review by Jillian Davey 13th Jun 2013

“What did they do with that money?” A common question among the Wellington contemporary dance community, asked of The New Zealand Dance Company’s CNZ funding; a huge amount for a single arts organisation, let alone contemporary dance. ($500,000 per annum for two years.)  Whether we’re irked the money wasn’t more evenly distributed, or that it all went up to Auckland (sniff), most of us were curious to find out how that cool million was put to use.

While I can’t claim to know where the funding is allocated behind the scenes or what politics it may, or may not be, wrapped in, I can tell you where some of it went from an audience perspective.

It went towards eight very strong Kiwi dancers, some unique Kiwi choreography and some imported from overseas, live musicians, performance-specific composed music, a simple yet fresh set design, engaging lighting, and probably a few techies.

The set, designed by Sue Gallagher, was effective in its simplicity.  Loops of metallic-coloured fabric hung side by side to create a backdrop, a musician’s reveal (as portions were raised and lowered), and a screen for projected introductions to each of the evening’s five pieces; a short graphic display in bright white lettering and the name of the next piece in the line-up.  A nice touch visually, especially for those who didn’t have programmes.

I was slightly concerned as Michael Parmenter’s ‘Tenerezza (…from time to time…)’ opened the show.  A strong display of finesse and impeccable partnering by dancers Craig Bary and Justin Haiu, but certainly nothing ground breaking.  The partnership seemed to be one of the-blind-leading-the-blind, with the dancers looking, but not seeing each other.  The movement, set to a vaguely familiar classical score (Bach’s Sonata in A Minor), was interrupted by sudden stops and starts, but without a pause long enough for the audience to linger on or register it.  There was one great moment of pause while Haiu and Bary breathed in unison after a particularly soft, yet strong, partnering phrase, but all was lost when the piece ended abruptly, as if the lights had been turned off by accident.

Director Shona MCCullagh’s ‘Trees, Birds Then People” offered an impassioned avian mating dance.  Again, strong dancing by the cast, Gareth Okan, Lucy Lynch, Hannah Tasker-Poland, and Tupua Tigafua, with displays of fast movement, quick changes of direction and intricate arm and hand choreography… bird-like in every aspect.  Lighting was subdued in the colours of New Zealand bush, music played live by NZTrio and composed by Gareth Farr was suitable for the piece, and tone was comical and quirky.  A cute quartet.

‘Release Your Robot’, was where the show broke free of its typical contemporary clutch.  Justin Haiu shone as choreographer and performer, fusing his street dance and contemporary dance backgrounds.  He offered a simple story in a slick white suit and matching kicks (shoes) in a new style that seemed so right for a Kiwi dance company.  His presentation of a human robot showing his moves during a night out and tragically being felled by a hit-and-run was an engaging and truly unique. I hope the audience was taking note, as hopefully they’ll be seeing more of this contemporary fusion.

Another NZDC choice I grudgingly admired (I am a Wellingtonian after all) was their extended scope to a piece of European choreography. ‘Prelude a L’apres midi D’un Faune’ (‘Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun’), is a solo for Ursula Robb gifted by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker of Belgian company Rosas.  It shows the company is looking further afield than its own back yards for inspiration, but whether it was the subdued (perhaps drab) costume or the changes to the choreography to ‘suit a female body’ (it’s usually performed by a male)something was lost in translation.  ‘Afternoon of a Faun’ has been rehashed many times by various ballet and contemporary choreographers; the original was performed by Nijinksy in 1912, and Debussy’s iconic score never fails to impress.  Unfortunately, although Robb encapsulates the awkwardness and vulnerability of the Faun, the piece as a whole was not the most successful adaptation.

And finally the closing: ‘Human Human God’.  If this piece were a news story it would be a human interest bit produced by the young intern with their finger on the pulse and an ear for music — the problem, the plight, the desperation, anger, and the action.

It takes on the insular characteristics (failures?) of Generation Y; their upbringing in a P.C. world (P.C. in this case could stand for both ‘politically correct’ and ‘personal computer’), their self-focus, and some would say, their demands to be treated both as equals and as unique individuals.  It encapsulates all the clichés this generation has to offer, and there-in lies the dark humour.  Choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull (she notes contributions from the dancers as well) knows what she’s working with and has moulded it into both a laughable piss-take and a serious look at this most modern of generations.

The cast (all company members except Robb) take this human interest story on with a bold, urban warrior style as they oppress, manipulate and prove their uniqueness to each other in some fierce choreography.  Not a weak dancer among them, they worked well in the unison sections, but with enough personal style (especially among the men) to make it interesting and varied.  Adding to the story is a score by Eden Mulholland, a favourite composer among contemporary dancers.  The grandly operatic, pop-alt score kept pace with the dancers.  (Or was it the other way around?)

Normally I wouldn’t recommend dancers to act… ever.  But both the recorded and live dialogue were enjoyable, effective, and dare I say, believable?  (Perhaps I shouldn’t go that far.)  Gareth Okan broods masterfully as one of the main narrators on their standings as unique, yet equal human beings.  Individual gods, in fact.  “Everyone is a god”, he says, entitled to all the good things the world has to offer.  How will they get it?  By being mean, or being nice?  Both, as only Gen Y can do. 

The New Zealand Dance Company impresses in their ability to retain the ‘contemporary’ in contemporary dance, as with Justin Haiu’s and Sarah Foster-Sproull’s choreographies, the show’s professional presentation, as made evident in their lighting, music, and stage design, and in spotlighting what New Zealand dancers are known for; strong, fierce, competent dancing.  Pity they’re based in Auckland.


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Gripped by Robb's animal magic

Review by Bernadette Rae 29th May 2013

Kiwi dancer’s captivating solo performance a welcome addition to NZ Dance Company’s touring programme.

When Ursula Robb, New Zealand dancer turned global star, takes the stage in her stunning solo Faune, set to Debussy’s most famous Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune, the everyday world stops and there is only this nascent little creature in its woodland grove, somewhere else.

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A showcase of contemporary dance styles

Review by Jenny Stevenson 26th May 2013

As they embark on their first ever tour around the North Island the New Zealand Dance Company has acquired several new emerging artists who bring a different, but essentially vital energy to the company’s original launch programme of works, Language of Living, first shown in Auckland a year ago.  In Auckland and Wellington, the company is also presenting a new solo work – Prélude à L’après-midi d’un Faune, choreographed by Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaker, for dancer Ursula Robb.

As a programme to introduce the company to the smaller centres of the North Island, Language of Living has much to commend it.  The works showcase many different styles of contemporary dance choreography, created for the company by both established and newer dance-makers.  It achieves a satisfying fusion of some of the elements that currently define the art-form in Aotearoa.  These include quirky humour, brash physicality and multi-faceted explorations of the aesthetics inherent in the architecture of the environment, together with the trajectory of bodies moving through a variety of spaces.

The works are individually introduced through explosive graphics designed by Gerbrand van Melle and projected onto a front curtain.  The setting of each work is further defined by adjustments to the extraordinary metallic-material backdrop created for the company by spatial designer Sue Gallagher, which is elegantly lit by Matthew Marshall.  Andreas Mikellis creates a variety of costumes in a muted palette enlivened with subtle splashes of colour or pattern.

Although it is an exploration of space performed largely in profile, De Keersmaeker’s work Prélude à L’après-midi d’un Faune, created in conjunction with Mark Lorimer, is clearly expressed differently to the New Zealand works.  Referencing Nijinsky’s iconic choreography of L’après-midi d’un Faune, to Debussy’s music, it harnesses the raw, laconic energy of the original and turns it on its head by having a female perform the intimate dance of thwarted desire.  Robb’s strength and mercurial directional changes invest the work with a charged and vigorous dynamic, vesting every nuance of the movement with meaning and layering the whole with an understated femininity.

Michael Parmenter’s duet for two men, Tenerezza (..from time to time..) is also concerned with intimacy – in this instance the emotional intimacy of lovers and how it manifests itself through shared space.  Accompanied by a beautiful rendition of Bach’s Sonata in A Major, 2nd Movement played by David Guerin on piano in Auckland, dancers Craig Bary and Justin Haiu establish a palpable and believable rapport.  As they jostle to establish the parameters of their relationship and the melding of the space between them, they alternate moments of quiet tenderness – gently touching each other – with high arched lifts and rhythmic walking sequences in circular patterning.

The New Zealand Dance Company’s Artistic Director, Shona McCullagh presents her lively interpretation of Gareth Farr’s composition, Mondo Rondo here given a spirited live performance by the New Zealand Trio.  Entitled Trees, Birds then People, the work is performed with great relish by four of the younger members of the company: new dancers Pamela Sidhu and Gareth Okan, together with Hannah Tasker-Poland and Tupua Tigafua.    The choreography celebrates the natural bush environment that all New Zealanders cherish and uses humour to draw parallels between avian and human interaction.

Sarah Foster Sproull’s work Human Human God to music by Eden Mulholland, is given clarity through a strong performance by Okan – stepping into the role originally created for dancer Alex Leonhartsberger.  Performed by seven of the eight dancers including new company member Lucy Lynch, the work investigates the social mores of “Generation Y” with their proclivity to be both “mean and nice”.  Sproull uses humour and bursts of a fast, thrashing vocabulary of movement to challenge the morality of such a stance and the dearth of spirituality in this mode of existence.

Justin Haiu’s idiosyncratic work Release Your Robot is presented in Auckland as a solo by Haiu, but in Warkworth and Hawkes Bay it will be performed in conjunction with local youth dance companies.  Performed to music played live by The Electric Boutique in Auckland, the work marries street dance moves with a contemporary aesthetic to create a cautionary tale of the inevitable change inherent in conformity.  Haiu’s exposition is clearly defined and performed with a touching characterisation.

The New Zealand Dance Company would appear to be in a good place as it sets out to fulfil its mission to deliver quality contemporary dance to New Zealanders, by touring the smaller centres.  Long may it continue.


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